Recap 96: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins
Title: The Cemetery by D. E. Athkins
Summary: At a Hallowe’en party with very exclusive guests, the disguised play a game of hide and seek in an ancient cemetery as midnight approaches. When someone is killed, all the partygoers can do is suspect each other – unless there is an unknown player.
Tagline: Don’t look behind you…
Every time I see the name D. E. Athkins, I laugh, which is probably not the intended response. I can’t help it. Deathkins writing Point Horror? Good lord, be more subtle.
Beyond that, I find D. E. Athkins’ work hit or miss, whether under this pseud or as Nola Thacker (who also wrote the Graveyard School series as Tom B. Stone and sometimes filled in as the ghost writer for the Nightmare Hall series under Diane Hoh’s name). (My god, the authors we recap here are an incestuous lot, aren’t they?) (Note: No actually claim or accusation of real incest here.)
All that being said, I love the summary of this book (… minus the Hallowe’en spelling, which just looks twee), and I hope we’ll all enjoy it.
Setting: Point Harbor (ridiculously, adorably cheesy name for a Point Horror book), and Athkins writes about it in a delightful way.
He drove slowly down Main Street, a street lined on either side with small, expensive versions of the larger, expensive shops in the city. Charming town. Quaint. Well-preserved. The foot of the street ran into a dock from which whaling ships had once set sail. At the end of the dock you could look far out into the deep, calm harbor, held between the land on one side, and the long, curving point on the other that gave the town its name.
The tip of the Point was blunt, worn down by the ocean pushing against it, trying to get into the bay. Beyond the Point, a row of rocks, randomly visible, pitched up out of the ocean floor.
Sometimes you could see lights out there, they said. Long-lost ghost ships that’d once sought the safety of the harbor and been caught by devilish mists and treacherous curling tides and renegade waves – and the rocks.
The Devil’s Teeth, they called them. In the old days, people used to scavenge the Point for what washed ashore. And bury their dead there.
[…] The moon was beginning to rise, laying a path straight across the dangerous waters. Cemetery Point. Once upon a time, and long ago, before the town had become a playground for the rich, that’s what the whole town had been called.
The town had a past.
But then, what didn’t?
Teens of Point Harbor headed to this exclusive party:
Cyndi Moray: blood-red lips, fangs, a study in black and white, can absolutely kiss with her fangs on, apparently. Vampire, if you haven’t caught on. Rich, sends guests to the library because it gives a great appearance for their guests, even if none of the family likes books. Her dad says they live on “borrowed class, but not on borrowed money.” Fast mouth, a lot of money, and likes to push people around.
Lara Stepford: (Not a Stepford wife. Probably.) Never notices anything unless “it was male and breathing on her.” Big brown eyes, pouty lips, long blonde wig over her own golden hair. Rapunzel, and she’s borrowed her mom’s wig, which is news to Cyndi. Rich.
Dade Walken: Will not drink with Cyndi’s father even when he offers. He’ll claim it’s because he’s driving, but he is “all lies and laughter” and really just likes being in control and saying no. Cyndi wants to know what it would take to make him lose control. Rich. Dressed as death.
William Lawrence Howell “Wills”: Lara’s current entertainment, easily makes careful, idle, polite, endless conversation, will drink with Cyndi’s father. Rich. Annoyed that he’s double dating with Dade and Cyndi, that he agreed to let Dade drive, and that Dade has upstaged his Freddie Krueger costume. Wants to go Freddie Krueger on Dade, who he thinks is an upstart faux rich boy. Admires Jack the Ripper because he made people afraid and made them pay.
Foy Villanova: FOY. Rich. Thinks of Sleeping Beauty when he sees hedges, old hedges mean old money, with rich people money anything is possible. Except him and Jane, who’ve grown up together, did some sexual fumbling together, but are friends. Maybe not even that. He’s a smooth, golden blond boy wearing a long robe painted with magic symbols and carrying a necromancer’s hat. What, exactly, does a necromancer’s hat look like, Foy?
Jane Wales: Old money, family has a butler named Hodges, dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and worried it is too childish, even though she loves the idea of following a yellow brick road off into adventure and making friends with scarecrows and lions and tigers. Jane feels plain (and intentionally rhymes it). Not fond of the bickering that Cyndi does with other people, particularly Charity Webster, whose parents are artists. Jane wants power, wants to get out of “Kansas”, wants a basic tornado to whisk her away.
Georgina Butler: Poor. Lives with her dad; her mom bounced when she was just two. Going to the party even though she’s not invited and she hates Cyndi and pretty much everyone else. She likes hating people because it gives her energy and courage and is a kind of high. She likes being high. Short, spiked black hair streaked with silver for the party, black gossamer webs floating around her, spider ring, red hourglass on her black turtleneck dress I GET IT ALREADY YOU’RE A GIANT BLACK WIDOW AWESOME SO EXCITED. Why is it always giant spiders?
Rick Carniack: (Oh my god, how many characters are going to be introduced in the first few pages? I already need some sort of chart to keep them all straight.) Maybe poor? Not really rich, at least. Dad is a funeral director, but even he flinches at the sight of Rick’s costume. Everyone thinks Rick is the class clown and a party animal, but really he’s afraid of being still for even one second because being still meant being dead. (We learn later that he’s dressed as “a psycho Santa Claus in a blood-spattered suit, holding a plastic ax.” Murderous Santa? Fun. Shame about that “psycho” bullshit.)
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 (+1)
Jones: (NO SERIOUSLY HOW MANY MORE PEOPLE?) His costume is simply putting on a cowboy hat because everything else already matches and is stuff he wears. Probably not rich. Drives a battered, nondescript car that has a powerful engine roar when it starts. I like it. Believes appearances can be deceiving and forgetting that is dangerous. Parks in the shadows at the high school to watch people arrive for the dance, even though the real event is Cyndi’s after party. He doesn’t like emotions, he knows what he has to do and then he’s going to be gone.
Charity Webster: Called “Char” because why not. Getting ready in the middle of half a dozen siblings of “varying degrees of relationship.” She’s making herself a witch (a good witch, she claims), and the little kids love her. Her parents are, as said earlier, artistic and very vague and head in the clouds.
(Another gorgeous bit of description while Jones is stalking the school:
A full moon was going belly up over the roof of the old school. Jones frowned. The old roof, bronzed to green with age (like everything else in this town, he thought) nevertheless gave off a pinkish, coppery glow from the metal beneath, picking up the lights in the parking lot that were beginning to flicker on. And the moon, rising above the Gothic, steeply pitched roof, looked for a moment as if it had caught on a sharp corner, as if the pink color were being drained out of it, to bleed down the roof, down across the building, down across the night. Spooky.
It was unseasonably warm.
I love the setting so much.)
Y’all. Y’ALL. That was only chapter one. All of those introductions, each person getting a new section, it was all chapter one. /weeps
Jane is thrilled by the moon, which looks “round and cool and seductive”; Foy teases her about moonbathing, but she likes that about him, he’s comfortable, she can say anything around him and he wouldn’t take it as corny and romantic. Not that she doesn’t want romantic, just not with him.
Foy and Jane are killing time outside at the dance, and the narrative hops between their points of view from paragraph to paragraph. Dade joins them, teases Foy about his giant hat (he’s supposed to be Merlin the Magician), and Dade flirts with Jane for awhile.
Cyndi leads a group of people out, bringing Wills and Jones at her side. She hasn’t told anyone where the party is happening; the trick is, they have to keep up, and if they do, they get the treat. I like Cyndi.
Char rides with Jones and figures out they’re headed for Cemetery Point. When Jones asks if she’s scared, she tells him that no one goes out there anymore and the road’s been sealed off for years. It’s supposed to be dangerous, erosion and tides, which, of course, only makes it more appealing. (Hell, I can’t blame them; makes it more appealing to me, too.)
Jones touches the back of her neck, freaking her out, and he tells her that being afraid is okay. She thinks he’s a little weird, and no one knows much about him, except that he just moved there from somewhere in the Midwest, though she can’t remember if he even said which state.
He asks her how long she’s known Cyndi, and Char says it’s been too long; when he pushes (as only a guy would do, she claims), she tells him she’s lived there for ten years, ever since her mother inherited their house from her great-aunt. She turns it back on him, asks what his story is; he says that he’s adopted, so he can’t really say. On the one hand, sort of true. On the other hand, I don’t trust Athkins to deal with this well at all. Guess we’ll see.
They get parked, and somehow the way Jones opens the door for her dumps them both onto the ground with him on top of her. Even though she’s terrified because she can’t stop thinking about how easy it would be for him to kill her up there, she keeps wanting him to kiss her, to kill her, angry and scared and turned on and amused.
They lie there until she sees the flash of moonlight on a blade coming down.
Really, Athkins. Chapter two, and we’re already at unnecessarily dramatic cliffhanger chapter endings? REALLY? You already spent the entire first chapter throwing names and traits at us, and now you’re head hopping so we don’t get to know anyone very well and already throwing in jump scares?
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 1 (+1)
It is, of course, Rick with his trick ax. There’s a lot of bickering over who was or was not scared. There really are too many different characters trying too hard to be memorable without having the space in which to become so.
They follow a creepy figure in white (whom they assume is Cyndi) over the sand dune until they are walking close to shore where the Devil’s Teeth lurk in the water beyond. Have I said I love this setting? Because I love this setting.
Eventually, the reach the location of the party, which is at the tip of Cemetery Point: It was a high, rocky spit of land, pounded by the ocean on one side, gnawed by the currents on the other side where the water of the sound met the ocean. A crumbling stone wall enclosed the cemetery. Inside the wall, a crazy dance of weathered gravestones and monuments waited.
The build up a big driftwood fire, sit on blankets around the circle of firelight, and chill in the cemetery. Creepy and wonderful. I really do love this setting, and would happily party in an old cemetery on Halloween. I wouldn’t dance on the graves or anything (which is maybe what they’re doing; they are definitely dancing, though it’s not clear whether on the graves), but it would be scary and wonderful.
(Wills howls like a werewolf, Jones teases him that it would be funny if something howled back, and I am left sad that there isn’t an actual werewolf. Cut down on the characters for me, please and thank you.)
Char and Jones dirty dance for awhile before they slip off into the dark parts of the graveyard. They go around reading the gravestones, which are mostly for sailors, until they find one that reads: Asleep but not at rest. May death bring her peace.
Well that’s not creepy at all.
There’s a lot of fast snarking back at the bonfire, and if I’d had time to get to know these characters at all, this would be a lot more fun, but as it is, I’m having a hard time keeping them straight. There’s some complicated romantic relationships between them, too, which generally I love (small town dating, I am familiar with it), but it just makes everything more difficult here.
Cyndi and Rick dance on top of a marble crypt, even though everyone else keeps asking them to come down.
Then the wind picks up with a howl, something crashes in the trees, and Lara is the first to scream.
AGAIN. AGAIN WITH THE FUCKING CLIFFHANGER. One chapter of throwing names at us, two chapters after that, two cliffhangers. This is terrible writing. How can Athkins write such gorgeous setting and atmosphere and such terrible everything else.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 2 (+1)
It is Georgina crashing the party. She’s there with Cyndi’s brother, Dorian. He’s dressed as a pirate (well, really Captain Hook, but Athkins never comes out and says it), conservative and elegant where Cyndi is provocative and outrageous. They look alike, with high-boned cheeks, golden hair, and enormous self assurance. Also, they hate each other. Char thinks it’s because they are too much alike and neither want to give up being the centre of attention to the other.
There’s more snarking at each other, and then they settle down to tell ghost stories. Rick goes first, with the one about the couple out parking on a dark, dead end road. He is, surprisingly, not booed, even though that story is fucking ancient, even back then. Instead, Char, at least, though she’s heard it a million times, finds it creepy, probably because of the setting.
Char and Jane have recently become friends, bonding over art, and Jane is not at all what Char expects. I would like to have fewer characters and more of a focus on them. Or any two or three of them, really. Just something to let us focus and learn more about.
Anyway, once the hook in the car door story is done, Dorian tells a story about a vampire who can’t keep her teeth off other people’s property — or other people. So she got fat and couldn’t catch people anymore and had to suck on dead people.
Really, Dorian. Really? Good times with the fat hate.
The “fat, greedy” vampire who should never have let it happen in the first place makes a big mistake because the people in the graveyard weren’t all completely dead. There was a graveyard for the undead, the vampire dug up a body, it was another vampire, and the old vampire bled out the younger vampire.
This story is strangely pointless and terribly written.
It’s almost midnight, and Georgie talks them into all holding hands around the fire so they can try to contact the dead. This book is very disjointed and strangely paced, along with everything else.
The wind comes in strong, everyone freaks out a little, Char tries to get them dancing instead of doing freaky things, and then she feels the whole Point tilt just a little and loses her balance. No one else seems to notice except for Jones, who keeps staring down at his hands, and then grabs her and drags her toward the darkness under the trees.
Before they can get far, Cyndi calls out after them, tormenting them, making them the centre of attention. It’s now three minutes until midnight, and Cyndi has a game for them. All the girls will hide and all the boys will come seeking them.
There’s another tremor, and again no one but Char and Jones seem to feel it. He tells her to run back to the car, not to stop, not to look back. When the game starts, Char sprints into the woods, which catches Dade’s attention. Something about the way she runs — but he keeps getting distracted by the boys.
Dade counts to thirty and the boys scatter, looking for the girls. We jump from one girl to the next, quick and scattered. The pacing continues to be off overall, but this is not that terrible. It’s nice to have these little check-in moments, though it would work better if we knew much about the characters or gave a flying fuck about any of them. As it is, it just feels jerky and sporadic and needlessly coy.
Cyndi hides in a hollow of ground beneath a broken-off monument; Jane in the shadows of the cold gravestones; Foy’s robe keeps getting caught in the underbrush and he sees a figure crouched in the shadow of a crumbling stone; Georgie hides next to an angel; Rick moves loud, because it doesn’t matter who he finds, he just wants a girl (Rick, you are gross); Dorian sits on a stone and smokes, because he has better things to do (college boy partying with the high school students and acting all disaffected has me rolling my eyes); Wills keeps tripping over things and smelling something terrible — and then he turns and finds something big standing behind him, not wearing the right costume. The world tilted, he throws up his hand to protect himself, and the blade takes him under the chin. Wills, dressed as Freddie, never knew when he died.
NOW THAT? That would have been a good, tense chapter ending. It is not a chapter ending. We immediately jump to Lara, sitting on a gravemarker and waiting to be found. Fail, Athkins. Fail.
She hears something, a muffled, ripping sound, then something landing on wet earth, and goes looking, calling out for Wills because she sees his Freddie Krueger nails scattered on the ground.
Char, running through the woods, has lost the path. She’s looking for the dunes, though she knows walking them would be treacherous, like walking in quicksand at the edge of a cliff, any misstep sending her down a steep fall to the rocky ledge of the shore. She’s never been there before, but somehow she knows this. She doesn’t know how she knows it, though.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1 (+1)
She pauses to catch her breath and hears something chasing after her. It might be Jones, or one of the people playing hide and seek, but she’s not sure, and instead of calling out, she hides, tries not to breathe.
When the sounds stop, she knows it is midnight, and then the screams begin, raw and terrible and inhuman.
Char starts running again, fists over her ears, until something grabs her ankle and she falls into darkness.
She’s in warm water then, with friendly waves, but knows that swimming in the ocean is dangerous, because anything could get you, sharks, undertow, or worse. She stands in the waves, long skirt twisting around her, and something is sailing in the dark, heaving waters beyond the Devil’s Teeth. Something is hunting out there, and she is waiting for it.
Char wakes to Georgie talking to her, trying to get her out of there. THey make it to the cars, and she sees Santa, and the spider woman, and Captain Hook. She gets into Jones’ car, along with other people, and they pull away, leave the clearing empty behind them.
Everyone seems to be accounted for except for Wills; Cyndi tells Char that he’s dead.
Oh, this is where you were waiting to use the next cliffhanger chapter ending.
Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 3 (+1)
Char notices dark stains on Lara’s pink princess dress. They fight over who stayed to look at Wills and who ran away. He was cut up pretty bad, and still moving, which, Jones said, sometimes happens after a person dies. They want to know why Jones knows so much; they’d believe it of Rick, with his mortician dad, but Jones is weird.
Jones takes them to the police station, which freaks Cyndi out; Lara is the one who says they have to report a murder.
They stay at the police station until nearly dawn, and then people went to search Cemetery Point. Char heads to Jane’s house later, because she’s so confused about what happened, and she wants a friend; Jane does, too, and calls her over in the first place. I like how they need each other.
Jane’s room is filled with sunlight because she doesn’t want to be in the dark. Not a shock at all.
They try to figure out who could have done it; Jane is the first to say that it had to have been one of them. Char wants to believe it was some random person out there. Jane points out how unlikely that is. They throw around a lot of talk about “crazy, dangerous” people, of course.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 (+1)
They’re trying to remember all the details about the night before, but are interrupted by Cyndi. They snap at each other, Char calls Cyndi a walking personality disorder, I roll my eyes because this is so badly written, and also, fuck that.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 3 (+1)
Cyndi came to talk to them because she’s worried someone is going to think Wills’ death is on her, and for some reason, she trusts Char even though they aren’t friends, aren’t even frenemies, are basically just enemies. Still, Char tells the truth and calls people on their bullshit, and Cyndi appreciates that. This part is kind of wonderful, and I wish we had more of this.
Apparently, the police think Cyndi set up everything, not just the party but all the way to the murder. Cyndi knows that Jane doesn’t gossip because that’s the kind of person she is, the kind of life she leads; she lives in a closed circle, and she protects what’s inside it and doesn’t talk to anyone outside it. Char, on the other hand, won’t gossip because she hates Jane and it’s a weird code of honour.
The only way to prove she didn’t kill Wills is to find out who did, and she’s roping Jane and Char into helping her. I wish the entire book focused on these three. It would address a lot of the pacing and crowded character list, and it’s interesting to see the mix of girls who are friends and aren’t friends all finding a way to work together.
We skip over to Jones who is thinking about murder and how easy it is to get away with it, on tv, in movies, and in real life. He’s having a hard time distinguishing between real and fake, and maybe death is the only reality. He’s been sitting and watching Cemetery Point, and though that first night, the search kept going, the next night, it had died off. Guess they collected all the clues they needed.
There’s a bunch of talk about why people would live in Point Harbour and how crazy everyone is and blah blah blah, go the fuck away, Jones.
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 103 (+100)
Dade pulls up behind him then comes to sit in his car and asks how he’d do it if he wanted to off someone.
Skip over to Char having another dream. She’s not in the water this time, but on the dunes, looking out at the sea and the Devil’s Teeth glistening like the unholy, carnivorous smile of the sea. He’s out there, waiting for her. They call him her demon lover, but he took everything she loved about from her, and she doesn’t care about anything but killing him, even if she has to wait for all eternity before she rests.
Char wakes, and realises that she’s not afraid of dying, she’s afraid of something worse.
Hop over to Lara, who is sleeping, because she always sleeps well, sleeps like the dead. Except she’s had trouble since Wills’ death, so she’s on some pretty heavy duty sleeping pills now.
Rick snarked at his dad about Wills being business for him and now they’re sort of a team. Well if that’s not a red herring I don’t know what is.
Red Herrings: 1 (+1)
Lots of head hopping, not a lot of interesting things going on. Let’s sum up instead:
- Dorian picks at Cyndi and hints that she tried to kill him once and the police should know. Red Herrings: 2 (+1)
- Georgia has bad dreams and is angry that the police treated her worse than the others, though she knows her rights and stands up to them. (Safe enough if she’s a white girl, as she seems to be.) She told the police a lot, though not the whole entire truth, is mean to her dad’s cat, and pretty much makes me hate her in a few short paragraphs. Red Herrings: 3 (+1)
- Foy sees Dade and Jones talking in Jones’ car and thinks there’s something weird about it Red Herrings: 4 (+1) — then tells himself that he’s being paranoid and they’re probably just getting high together. Even though he’s never seen Dade get high at all and Jones likes to stay in control. At school, Foy feels like they’re all staring at him, watching him, and if he ran, they’d chase him down like a pack of wild hunters.
- Char is in the public library searching through old newspapers that haven’t yet been converted to film, and is terribly bored. She starts forty years back, and is looking for a pattern of someone killing before, maybe. She works until it gets dark and the stacks are shadowy around her, but finds nothing useful, just interesting little tidbits about the town’s history. She hears something moving, gets freaked out, but it’s only Jones, carrying her artist’s notebook, which she apparently left behind. He’s looked through at least part of it, and she is both freaked out and angry, as she should be.
- Jones wants to talk to her about what she felt that night, how she knew something was going to happen, just like he did. She tells him to tell her who killed Wills; he doesn’t tell her that he doesn’t know, but that he can’t tell her, can’t give her the name. Well that’s not sketchy at all. Red Herrings: 5 (+1)
- Georgina is bored because the party was ruined and the weekend is still days away and Dorian hasn’t called her. She’s not a drunk, she assures herself, but she drank too much that night (and others) and doesn’t remember what happened very clearly. She steals vodka from her dad, vodka he makes himself from potatoes (… I have never made potato vodka, but now I want to do so immediately). She’s determined they won’t blame her, and though she knows they’ll be sorry one day for how they treated her, when she’s famous, she wants them to start feeling sorry much sooner. Everything about this is a red herring, isn’t it?
- She calls Dorian to come get her, and they exchange some cruel barbs. She directs him up to the Point because she wants to look for clues. Or something. Throws around Nancy Drew Girl Detective and Sherlock. They also talk about how Cyndi could have been able to do it, she has a bad temper and she’s big and strong. They do explore, they both start to get excited and a little turned on from the danger of it all. Right up until they find the chalk outline of Wills’ body and all the blood on the ground.
- They stay too long and it is dark as they try to make it through the trees. Dorian is actually freaking out, and Georgina is annoyed with him and mocking him. She tries to tempt him to stay with her, but he hears something in the undergrowth and takes off again. He makes it to the car, freaking out, but something leaps at her while she’s still trying to get to him. He peels away, not caring about the branches that scrape up the side of the car or what is fastened to the door handle Dun-Dun-DUNNNNN!: 4 (+1)
- Hop over to Cyndi, who has been driving aimlessly but is now tailing people trying to guess where they’re going and getting it wrong almost every time. A police car pulls in behind her, and she wonders if she’s being followed. In response, she heads out of town to drive too fast. Because that’s how to deal with a cop car behind you. *head desk*
- Back at home, Char finds both her art notebook and another book, a pale, rusty-coloured book, blank on the outside, small, faded printing on the inside. It’s an old whaler’s journal, and she’s spooked; the title page reads “Of Darkness and Its Minions” and though she doesn’t want to, she reads it. (The last book that terrified her was Interview with the Vampire, and I am dying over this.)
- Cyndi ends up at Lara’s house. Lara is short with her, which is understandable because it’s not that long ago that she found Wills brutally murdered. Cut her some slack, Cyndi. Cyndi picks at her until she snaps, but she’s not going to leave her room until it’s all over, because she saw the killer and she doesn’t want him to kill her too. Of course, the scene ends here.
- Char’s reading about the history of the area: ghost ships, monster sharks, superstition, blood, and death. I want this story. Anyway, people stopped using the cemetery on the point because there seemed to be hauntings on once hallowed land. There’s an evil ship that comes across the sea where no other ship can go, and rumor has it that the captain is a foul, dark creature. Other rumors about the thing at Cemetery Point and the sea beyond: it can fly, mimick people and light and shadow, it grows stronger every time it takes a life.
- And there is a woman who died outside of godliness and lives even after death. The captain doesn’t believe she made a pact with the devil to keep living, but that her burial was not right, and she, who was beautiful once, has risen because of wronged blood.
- Cyndi knows she’s fucked things up with Lara, and hates that she bent to begging. She also wants to know what Lara saw, and even wonders if Lara killed Wills herself, but writes that off fairly quickly. She drives around alone some more; no one knows where she is, and no one cares. She’s hated Dorian since the day she was born, but after what happened (no details on that, of course), she’s surprised he keeps fighting with her. She gets home just in time for Dorian to come racing in, not even caring that he keeps hitting the walls with the car. He starts screaming when she talks to him. He runs out of the garage, and she’s very mocking after, until she sees a deep gouge down one side of the car and a bloody hook hanging on the handle of the driver’s side.
- Two police officers show up at the point to do a patrol, and they’re both pretty freaked out by the location and what happened. This seems surprising, and they sound more like teenagers than trained adults. They, of course, find Georgina’s body.
- Cyndi confronts Dorian, and we finally learn at least one thing that happened when they were younger, which is that he locked her inside a trunk in the attic but chickened out before she died. He tells her that was a joke, but what she tried was murder. Lots of throwing around “crazy” here. Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 104 (+1) Oh, and then we learn the other part, which is that Cyndi locked him inside a closet (because she was afraid of him, she claims) and set something on fire. Or there was a fire. Whatever, that’s not clear. She says she told the fire department where he was, because she couldn’t get back inside to get to him.
- Jane and Dade have a fight next. She feels like everyone is watching them and acting weird and the cops won’t leave them alone. She took herself for a short walk, because she felt safe in her patrolled neighbourhood, but now she wants to get into the car with Dade as a bit of a dangerous thrill. They talk about how changing the setting and the clothes don’t change the actual performer. Then they go parking opposite Cemetery Point, because romantic and then they either make-out or one of them kills the other. Not actually clear.
- Dorian is freaking out about the bloody hook hanging on the door. He’s not sure if someone’s trying to scare him with this sick, elaborate joke, but he hopes someone is, because otherwise, it’s terrifying, either because it’s a frame-up or because someone’s hunting him.
- And then Georgina turns up, and he calls her sick, tells her it was a terrible joke, and he can’t believe she pretended to be dead when she’s really alive. Then she asks, with a terrible smile, if that’s really what he thinks.
- Ah, okay, Jane and Dade are making out. Good to know. They’re interrupted by flashing lights out on Cemetery Point. They take off back to town, and she wonders which of them it was this time.
- Char’s hanging out at BurgerBurger because they don’t care how long people stay if it isn’t crowded and she finds the jelly bean colors and piped-in music soothing, though she certainly didn’t back when she worked there. She’s obsessed with the book and her dreams, and how her dreams are feeling real. As she leaves, she feels like she’s being followed, but can’t find anyone. She checks her backseat when she gets to her car (really fucking smart! I’m impressed, Char), but then a blinding glare of headlights pinned her against the darkness.
- Jane and Dade race to the emergency room where they see Georgina’s father. The ambulance driver gives them way too much information about how the body looks (“like she got a dose of Jack the Ripper”). So much for medical privacy. Come the fuck on, Athkins! Anyway, Georgina is dead. Despite being in the garage a few minutes ago. Ghost? Dorian passed out? Who knows. Yet.
- Rick and Foy are the ones who pulled up by Char, and they know nothing of what’s happened. They’re also looking for Jane, but none of the three of them can get ahold of her, and Char starts to be very worried.
- We have actual supernatural! The thing in the garage with Dorian is an actual thing that can look like anyone but smells of death and gasoline (well, at least for Dorian). It said it struggled to give Wills what he wanted, but could be more creative with sweet Georgina. It rambles on, settles on being called Jack right now (as in Jack the Ripper), and then Dorian’s world exploded into flame and darkness.
- Char feels the explosion back in the parking lot with Foy and Rick, and the guys want to go see what’s on fire. Of course they do. They head toward the house in their separate cars, and over at the hospital, Jane and Dade do too.
- Dade takes off running for the garage the second he hears that the son and daughter aren’t accounted for (though all the servants got out and the parents aren’t home). The crowd cheers when part of the garage roof falls in and they can see the outline of a molten car.
- Dade somehow manages to evade the cops and the firemen and rescues Cyndi from the house. She’s fighting to go back inside to save Dorian. Jane breaks the news to Char about Georgina, and Cyndi is freaking out because she killed her brother and this time she wasn’t even trying, she didn’t mean it.
- They reconvene in Jane’s house and Cyndi, who has now been drugged into calm by a paramedic, tells them more of the story, about the attic and the closet and setting fire to a wastebasket. She tells them that she thinks he’d been with Georgina before he died, and that whatever got Georgina got him too and it’s coming for them all.
- No one wants to believe her, but Char does. Jones does, too, and they’re surprised that he’s turned up to join them. They ask if Jones is a supernatural bounty hunter (I would read the fuck out of that, too!), there’s lots of bickering, Cyndi starts to freak out again. She finally tells them about the hook in the handle of the driver’s door.
- Char brings up the book, about the thing that haunted Cemetery Point back when Point Harbor was a whaling port and that it got stopped somehow. Jones says he doesn’t know how it was stopped last time, but Char doesn’t believe him.
- They figure out that something was dead and buried in the graveyard until they woke it up. That is actually creepy, and I wish there’d been less time spent throwing names at us and more time building up a couple characters and getting to this point. We don’t need to head hop to all the characters. You can make us care about them and their deaths without giving us a few sentences about each.
- Char reads them the book, and they decide they have to team up to stay alive because they can’t trust anything else. Except then Foy and Rick refuse to believe it is supernatural, and that it must be someone who saw them at the graveyard and decided to kill them. They all argue about how to survive, until Cyndi runs off on her own. They chase her, but she’s too fast and she steals Jones’ car. Jones, why were your keys in it still?
- They take off after her in Dade’s car (and Char has a dazed thought about how many potential murder victims could they fit in a heavy metal Chevy, which made me laugh), but have a hard time keeping up with her in Jones’ car, even though Dade’s car is amazing.
- The town feels empty and there are no cops around, no people. It takes them awhile, but eventually they figure out that Cyndi is headed back to the Point. Where else would she go, in the mood she’s in?
- Cyndi drives through the metal gate at the Point without stopping; they keep seeing things in the road in front of them, and when Char wonders internally whether it could do that, Jones tells her it can without ever hearing her speak.
- When they find Jones’ car, Cyndi is already gone. Char is the only one who actually considers that maybe it’s not Cyndi. Which is a really good point. I like Char and her logic and her family quite a bit.
- They decide to hold hands so they don’t get separated, which reminds Char of how it all started, holding hands around the fire. And then she remembers that Lara isn’t with them, though Jane says she’s at home, where she’s safe, Rick adds.
- Cyndi (or something that looks like Cyndi) is waiting for them at the cemetery. She steals the flashlight, throws it into the air, and runs off into the darkness. Dade lets go of Jane and races after her. This causes a chain reaction as they all let go and try to run, some after, some away.
- Char starts to feel weird and separate from the others, groggy, and then she says she’ll go get the flashlight. Jones doesn’t want her to go, and when she bends to get the flashlight, she sees the tombstone: Charity Webster, 1888 – ______.
- I don’t like the writing and I still think there are too many characters with points of view chapters, but I really love this plot.
- She demands more information from Jones, who calls her hysterical, which is some bullshit, and she actually calls him on it. Again, she feels the earth start to move, and smells a familiar smell, rank and ashy, something heavy and quick and hunting — and it comes to stand behind her.
- When she closes her eyes, the power coursing through her brings a vision, a woman standing at the edge of the sea as the water boils around her and the smoke of the torches lingers in the air. Everyone has run away and left her alone.
- Char forces herself to open her eyes and sees the woman from her vision, from her dreams, standing nearby. The woman tells her to turn around, and when she does, a river of fire pours toward her. The woman has chosen Char, and Char has chosen to stay.
- Lara walks toward her, but Char says that it can’t be Lara, because Lara’s safe. No one is safe, it tells her, and it took Lara after it took Wills. So all this time, Lara has been false? Or only recently dead? Either way, super creepy and wonderful.
- The woman comes to Char and takes her over her body, and the demon and the woman-in-Char confront each other. The demon cycles through all its victims’ faces, but Char stands strong. She fights through all the pain and all the terror and then, when she starts to fall down into her own grave, she tells the woman who has taken her body that they are not the same. The power of the woman filling her starts to dissipate, until all that is left is Char holding the demon into dawn as they fall into the closed earth of the grave.
- She wakes up in her bedroom, and she knows she has the whole day ahead of her, has the rest of her life.
- Char and Jones goes to the Point. It is not as big anymore, because the graveyard part fell into the ocean. This is gorgeous and wonderful. But it’s winter now, and the nightmares are fading, the killings are over. Jones, it seems, is the one who pulled her out of the grave.
- Char has decided that the woman needed Char to help her be buried inside the graveyard and not outside, where she’d been buried because the people around her thought she’d made a deal with the demon. When she became buried on hallowed ground via Char, she was able to be at peace and take the demon with her.
- Ah, Lara is still alive, it was just tormenting them.
- Jones says that he didn’t know what would happen, he just found the book in his travels and he believes everything he reads, though he then tells her that she can’t believe everything she reads. He’s never given her an answer about who he is, either, and yet she still seems rather fond of him and trusting him.
- There’s another party, Dade says, and Jane is with him; they’re going to Lara’s house. Char and Jones will join them later, but for now, the party at the overlook is just fine with them.
Overloaded with characters, so much so that it’s hard to get to know anyone or to care about them, and often poorly written (though there is some great description throughout), but the story itself was a ton of fun, if oddly paced and rushed at the end. Char is GREAT, and I love her friendship with Jane, and the way the two of them are and are not friends with Cyndi. I wish the entire story had focused on those three. The relationships could have been much better developed, and the whole supernatural story could have been something great and not the rushed, shallow story it became, but this was actually rather fun.
Gimme a blindfold and some stupidity: 1
Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 104
Red Herrings: 5
OMG. A character with my name!
Glad you could follow what was actually going on in this book, because I’ve never been able to, not even 24 years after I first read it!
And what is with D.E. Athkins/Nola Thacker having so many bloody characters in her books? There was like 11 principal characters running around here, half of them with no real purpose. I also find Thacker far too oblique and vague with descriptions and actions. Nice atmosphere aside, I wasn’t fond of this one at all. I had no idea WTF was going on.
The name thing is so weird, right?! I both love and hate when stuff like that happens.
This book desperately need a map and an easily-referenced character list. Athkins/Thacker loves big character groups, but doesn’t write books in which there’s enough time to develop them or to let the reader get to know them so that we care.